Eddi Reader – Love Is the Way

January 01, 1970

(Rough Trade)




Eddi Reader, the Scottish singer who is an established and
well-regarded folk-pop presence in Britain
but little known in the U.S.,
has a voice like sunshine. It’s pure, bright, warming and filled with an
optimistic clarity that banishes any reluctant shadows in its path. It perhaps
best recalls the smoothly reassuring female singers of the pre-rock era, such
as Doris Day or Patti Page, but with strains of British folk-rock rather than
Big Band-era jazziness.


On Love Is the Way, her ninth solo album since 1992
(after being in hit-making band the Fairground Attraction), Reader surrounds
that glowing voice with tastefully acoustic arrangements on songs that, for the
most part, affirm being alive in a world where love is possible. This album
came together quickly, recorded in Glasgow
with her regular collaborators Boo Hewerdine and John Douglas among others,
while she was working on a greatest-hits collection.


The problem with Reader’s approach here, and it feels funny
to say there is a problem with such positivism, is that rock and
post-rock ears need to hear a little edge, a little darkness, a little
melancholy and angst, to avoid being lulled into listlessness. Otherwise,
beauty becomes mere prettiness. Reader has trouble with that – her voice lacks
the mournful qualities of a Sandy Denny, for instance. A Brian Wilson song
written for his ex-wife Marilyn’s group American Spring, “Sweet Mountain of Love,”
moves from a minor-key verse with lyrics expressing insecurity to a major-key
uplift and then back. Reader handles the uplift great, like doo-wop, but she
can’t get a handle on the song’s moodier aspects. And sometimes, her
interpretations seem superficial and cocktail-loungish, as on an old Doris Day
song, “It’s Magic.” But when Reader works with songwriters sensitive to her
strengths, especially Hewerdine and Douglas, the results have the happy
spirit-lifting quality of late-1960s sunshine pop, crossed with the literate
dimensions of British folk.


The gifted Hewerdine, who sometimes records on his own,
contributes (with Reader as co-writer) the catchiest song here, “Over It Now,”
as well as two appealing “nature” songs – “Dragonflies” and the music hall-ish
“Dandelion.” Douglas, who an Internet site identifies as Reader’s “life
partner” and who was in Trash Can Sinatras, writes for her like a soul-mate.
“New York City” is a sweetly arranged showcase for her voice’s sensitivity, and
she makes it a tender ode. And “Roses,” with a softly pronounced electric-rock
underpinning that even allows for a mellotron solo, sways and swings like
pepped-up bossa nova. The chorus, where one of her male accompanists joins in
on the vocals, bounces with pure joy. This is Reader at her best and it leaves
you pulling for her to always find the best material possible.


Standout Tracks: “Over It Now,” “Roses” STEVEN



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